Concern growing over bars and COVID-19

Jennifer Lewke
Updated: October 29, 2020 05:16 PM
Created: October 29, 2020 04:54 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Bars have to do better, that’s the message from Monroe County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza as COVID-19 numbers continue to rise. Over the last few weeks, Monroe County has seen a number of positive cases of COVID-19 among bar and restaurant employees and patrons.

Earlier this week, the Monroe County Department of Health warned anyone who was standing or sitting at the bar in the Char Steak and Lounge inside the Strathallan Hotel on Thursday or Friday evening, that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 after a bartender tested positive for the virus.

“I’m growing increasingly concerned about bars… Let's be honest when people are drinking alcohol they may not always make the best choices and even if they are making the right choices you can't be sure that those around them and a bar are also doing the same,” Dr. Mendoza says.

The health department is reminding all bars and patrons that bar seating must be no greater than 50% capacity and employees must be wearing a mask at all times, not just a face shield. Patrons who are not part of the same party must be sitting or standing six feet apart.

Dr. Mendoza also suggests that Plexiglas barriers are placed between the bartender and patrons and that the bar gets the name and telephone number of every customer in case contact-tracing is needed.

News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke spoke with both Dr. Mendoza and Monroe County Executive Adam Bello on Thursday about enforcement:

Jennifer Lewke: "For months you’ve both of been preaching education over enforcement but now that we're seeing sort of a blatant disregard in some cases for the rules and regulations that have been set up, when does that enforcement get stepped up?"

Adam Bello: "Well, enforcement is important but I would say this though... regionally, it's very different in Monroe County. We haven't seen what you have seen in a lot of other places because we've had good participation… everybody should know what they need to do, the rules are clear everybody should know what they need to do."

Dr. Michael Mendoza: "First and foremost, I am a physician and when I have a patient who is making decisions that I think are not in the best interest of his or her health I want to figure out how I can connect with that person in a different way and I don't view my role as commissioner of public health that differently… If we have to enforce we will and the Health Department is not a stranger to that as you know, we've closed restaurants, we’ve fined establishments if we have to, I'm certainly not afraid of that but I really would like to see us get through this without having to take that step."

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